The Su-an Police Department.
I open the door to the Criminal Affairs Division, which is on the second floor. This is the very place where I was detained and interrogated twenty years ago.
Actually coming here again makes the memories pop up in my mind, one after another. Ugh, I’m getting shivers in my spine.
I take a hesitant look at my surroundings.
“I’m telling you, this bastard started it!” one man says angrily to a detective.
“I really did not do anything at all, officer,” the man next to him says calmly.
“Do you know who the hell I am?” the first man shouts.
“Excuse me, please be quiet over there,” another detective says loudly in their direction.
The whole place is noisy with the sounds of ringing phones and loud voices.
I grab the arm of a detective that’s walking past. “Excuse me. Who is in charge of the Su-an Spaniel case?” I ask him.
“Go further inside,” the detective replies, pointing somewhere further in.
He seems to be in a rush; he practically runs as I let go of him.
I push my way through the crowd of people to reach the back, but all of the detectives of this area seem to be out on duty; nobody’s here.
Violent Crime Task Force 2 is next to it. All the desks here are empty as well, save for one.
“Excuse me,” I call out to the man standing in front of that desk.
There’s a musty smell coming from somewhere.
The man is staring intently at some low-resolution footage. I think it’s a crime scene, but it’s hard to even discern people’s faces.
“Jesus Christ. Can you even call this footage?” the man mutters under his breath.
“Detective?” I say, calling out to him again.
“Yes?” He turns around and looks up at me.
Wow. He’s a good looking, muscular guy. Tanned skin, broad shoulders… Incredible. He’s in better shape than the average sportsman.
“I have information about the Su-an Spaniel,” I say.
“The Spaniel? Take a seat,” says the detective, pulling out the chair in front of him.
Holy shit. I just saw the man’s rotten socks on his feet. This must be the source of the rotting smell in the office.
“What information do you have?” the detective asks.
“I saw a suspicious man in an alleyway near Moreore Pizza House in the Dongsu neighborhood, and I think he was the Spaniel.” I pull out the box cutter from my pocket. “The man dropped this.”
The beast-like detective stops scribbling and puts his pen down. He looks at the box cutter, then back at me, with a confused look on his face.
“Thank you, but what makes you think that the man was the Spaniel?” he asks.
The fact that the Spaniel’s weapon is a box cutter isn’t known yet. If I explain all of the circumstances of the incident, they’ll definitely try to track down the victim, but if my explanation is too loose, I’ll cause unwanted misunderstandings.
“He was wearing a black hat and mask. His eyes looked like the sketch made by the police,” I say calmly.
“He didn’t do anything unusual?” the detective asks.
“I bumped into him in the alleyway, and he took off in a hurry.”
“… Is that all?”
“Don’t you think it’s suspicious?”
The detective sniffs. “Yes. You’re absolutely right,” he says with a polite smile.
In the next moment, he examines me closely with a sharp stare.
“How did you get the injuries on your hands and face?” he asks.
“Those are personal circumstances,” I reply.
“Uh-huh. Could you please show some identification, if you don’t mind?”
I confidently hand him my ID.
“One moment, please,” the detective says.
He’s being polite, but I’m certain that he thinks I’m suspicious. Though there seems to be nothing wrong on the surface, he’s probably intuitively sensed something… though it looks like that intuition has led him in the wrong direction.
Thinking about it that way, it pisses me off a little. I’m just looking out for the police and doing my best to help, after all.
Suddenly, a loud voice comes from the next team over, on the other side of a divider.
“What? How does that even make any sense?”
The voice is coming from a place labelled ‘Violent Crime Task Force 1.’
I pretend I didn’t hear anything, but I listen in.
“What is it?” another detective asks.
Wondering what’s going on, a bunch of them crowd around that area.
“The National Forensic Service has the DNA data from yesterday’s jewelry store robbery.”
“That’s good. The culprit will be arrested soon.”
“But the guy is in prison right now.”
“This says he was imprisoned a year ago, and he’s still in jail. What the hell?”
What is all this about?
“Hasn’t there been some kind of mistake?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’ve told them to redo the tests, but this is very strange.”
“What about the possibility that he’s done labor outside the prison? Has he ever been outside?”
“No. It looks like the prison’s warden is willing to testify for that.”
“There’s no way there was something wrong with the evidence. It was collected right there at the scene. There must have been a mistake in the process of analysis.”
“Shit. What the hell is going on?”
The atmosphere in the whole station has flipped upside-down.
A certain case suddenly comes to my mind. I don’t remember the name of the case, but it was such an unusual case that it was used in future forensic investigation textbooks.
I stand up and stick my head over the partition.
“Excuse me, detective,” I say to the man sitting closest to me.
Totally confused, the detective turns around and looks at me absent-mindedly.
“Should I tell you?” I offer.
“I’m sorry?” the detective says, looking at me blankly.
“Should I tell you what happened in that case?”
All the detectives gathered in the office stare at me as if I’m insane. I can hear whispered voices wondering who the hell I am. I can even see one guy blatantly sneering at me.
I pretend not to hear them. “Do you not want to know what happened?” I ask the detectives.
“Are you saying you know more than the National Forensic Service? Are you the criminal?” one of the detectives laughs, both his voice and expression full of first-class sarcasm.
For a moment, I half-consider not helping them, but I grit my teeth and smile. “DNA is the identifying characteristic of the criminal, but he’s locked in prison, so you’re all stumped. Am I correct?”
“That’s right,” agrees one of the detectives.
“Then he could be an identical twin.”
The office is engulfed in silence.
“Identical twins aren’t too common, are they? Maybe only one percent of the total population?” I continue.
All of the detectives look skeptical, but their opinions differ.
“What are the chances that both identical twins are serious criminals?”
“But it’s not completely impossible.”
“Why the hell are you agreeing with him!”
Well, now that I’ve given them the correct answer, I suppose these police detectives will take care of the rest.
I turn my back to them to sit in my seat again, leaving them to it.
“Junior,” says the voice of the man who looked like he was the leader of Violent Crime Task Force 1. “You go to the neighborhood office and check.”
A young detective runs out of the office, holding his jacket.
It’s 5:30 now. The neighborhood office is open until 6, so it’s going to be a close call.
“Detective Kang, call the prison again. I’m going to the National Forensic Service.”
“Sir! Please take care of this as well while you’re there.”
Everyone’s suddenly so busy, despite the fact that they were all sitting down a minute ago.
Being a cop is an occupation that needs you to move, but the heat and energy they’re giving off is amazing.
I’m just sitting in the middle of all of them, watching everything unfold.
You know… What if I never made that delivery that day? Would I be among these people right about now? Would I have achieved my dream of being a police officer?
I feel it again now. The reality of the fact that my life was crushed by the very police that it was my dream to join.
The muscular detective who took my ID returns. A background check on me wouldn’t turn up anything, so he doesn’t have a choice, does he.
“Thank you. We will take the evidence into our custody for reference,” he says.
“Please do,” I tell him.
“Could you please leave us your phone number? We might contact you if we have any further questions.”
“Of course. You’re working so hard around the clock, so it’s the least I can do.”
I write down my phone number on a piece of paper.
“Ah. Detective,” I say.
“What is it?”
“Is there a Detective Wang Ong-gu here?”
This is the other reason I came to the police department. Wang Ong-gu was one of the people in charge of the Hae-soo case, the one who interrogated me.
I’ve been looking around but I haven’t seen him, so maybe he’s out on duty.
The muscular detective gives a small, involuntary frown. “Detective Wang? He’s in the narcotics unit,” he says.
The narcotics unit? At the very least, he was working on violent crimes up until a year ago.
It’s common for officers to transfer departments or have their team structures reorganized under the instruction of their superiors. But a detective who was entrusted with something as important as the Hae-soo case, transferring to another department less than a year later?
Something is off. I’m not outright suspicious but disconcerted nonetheless.
The muscular detective gives me a strange look. “Is there something you need to report there?”
“No, I just owe him a little something,” I say.
“Would you like his contact details?”
“No, thank you. I’ll come back and find him another time.”
I have plenty of time, and I can learn the details in a more natural manner once I become a police officer.
I bid the detective farewell and leave the police department building. I can see Chief Kim looking restless, like a dog waiting for its owner, even from a distance.
“Young Master. Did your business go well?” Chief Kim asks.
“Yes. Don’t worry about it. It really was nothing important,” I tell him.
“Would you like to go home now, then?”
I silently get into the back seat. I lean against the window and look up at the shining police logo on the police department building.
To tell the truth, I have mixed feelings after going and seeing the police with my own eyes, going about their daily lives as if nothing’s wrong despite having imprisoned an innocent man.
My instincts tell me that there’s a tangled web of strings out there, and I’m certain that it’s going to be hard to untangle it. I’ll have to untie twenty years’ worth of knots, after all.
“Hmm?” says Chief Kim, tilting his head a little and peering into his side mirror.
There’s a man running desperately towards us. He’s looking around, trying to find someone.
“He appears to be searching for you, Young Master,” Chief Kim says.
Looking at his face, I recognize him as the young detective who said he was going to the neighborhood office.
I open the window and look at him. He gives me a broad smile as he spots me and runs up to the car.
“You haven’t left yet,” he manages to say, panting.
“Is something the matter?” I ask.
“I’ve just been to the neighborhood office,” he says, still breathing heavily.
The young detective is very preoccupied with trying to catch his breath. It looks like he’s been running for a while; a bead of sweat drips from the end of his hair. But his flushed, red face looks so happy.
“The criminal really was an identical twin,” he tells me.
“That’s good to hear,” I say.
“Thank you. We would have been stumped without you.”
With that, the young detective bows and runs off back towards the police department building.
For some reason, I feel a twinge of sadness in my chest as I watch him leave.
He’s living the youth that I always wanted to live. Running around, sweating with passion. These people have attained what I was never able to.
Maybe it’s my age; my eyes are getting damp over such stupid things.
“Young Master?” says Chief Kim.
I can see both of our faces reflected in the mirror. We’ve just passed the mid-point of our twenties; we still have our youth.
That’s right. I just need to start over. I’ve been given a new life, after all.
“Shall I take you home now?” Chief Kim asks.
“No. There’s another place I want to go to,” I reply.
I’m going to live my new life in a magnificent fashion. Getting emotional is a waste of time.
Let’s catch the Spaniel. Let’s catch this bastard and get a good start to this.
I happen to know of an exceptional individual who can help me.
The first floor of an apartment building that’s falling apart.
A high school student returns from studying until late at school and checks the mail. There is a health insurance bill, utility bills, and advertising flyers.
He also discovers an unfamiliar-looking envelope.
The boy hesitantly takes the white, crumpled, folded envelope out of the mailbox. There are three checks inside, each of them for 1,000,000 won.
“Huh,” he mutters with a small frown.
He examines both sides of the envelope, but there are no contact details written on it. In that case –
“I’m not going to be doing any work for a while,” he sighs as he turns towards the dark staircase.
As he does, a handsome man emerges from the darkness.
“Hi, Ho-un,” the man says.
“How did you know my name?” Ho-un asks as he sips his green tea, his eyes full of suspicion.
He seems to feel uneasy, despite the fact that we’re in a crowded café.
It looks like he liked green tea ever since he was young. It’s the only thing he ever drank in prison.
I enjoy a sip of my coffee as I examine the boy closely.
Every facial feature is the same as the Ho-un that I knew. It’s like I’m face-to-face with his hidden child.
“Well, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I say in reply to his question.
“I won’t work for you if you don’t tell me,” he says.
“You said you won’t be doing any work for a while anyway.”
Ho-un curls his lip and looks away. Despite his words, his hand is holding the 3,000,000 won very tightly.
How can your words be so different from what your actions are saying, man?
“Just tell me where you heard my name,” he says, seeming worried about how his personal information was leaked.
A guy who went by the alias of ‘Ant’ as he messed with people’s information would certainly feel vulnerable now that his own information has been revealed.
I raise my eyebrows and look at his chest. “It says on your name tag, right there. Kim Ho-un.”
Ho-un stares blankly down at his own chest for a moment, and then he suddenly gets onto his feet. He hesitates, then puts the envelope on the table.
“Thank you for the green tea. Bye,” he says.
“This is because of your mother, right?” I say.
Ho-un’s eyes widen like a rabbit’s. He’s past the point of suspicion; his face has a look of pure worry.
“How did you know that?” he whispers.
The first time Ho-un earned money was when he was in middle school. His first commission was from a woman requesting him to hack into the cellphone of her husband, whom she suspected of having an affair.
He then kindly gave 500,000 won to his mother. He expected her to praise him, but what he received instead was her cane. She was certain that if a young child was earning money without working, it was undoubtedly coming from illegal activities. A fearsome person, she forced Ho-un to burn the cash as he cried.
But his nature never changed. From then on, he would secretly take on occasional requests whenever he needed money, up until his mother passed away when he was twenty years old.
“There’s nothing you don’t know,” Ho-un remarks.
“As it turns out, I know a lot about you,” I say.
“But why did you come looking for me? If you’re skilled enough to do that, go and solve your problems on your own,” Ho-un sighs.
“I have no idea how to use computers,” I tell him with a grin.
Ho-un is wearing an expression as if he’s just tasted a mouthful of shit.
So, there was a time when you were naïve too, huh?
“It’s nothing big. Just find one person for me,” I say.
“Nothing big? You make it sound so easy,” says Ho-un.
“Of course. It’s an easy job for you, after all.”
“You’re paying me three million for an easy job?”
This will be the highest-paying commission that Ho-un has received so far. Up until now, he’s probably only done small, secret investigations… though in the future, he’s going to become a hacker that shakes the foundation of the nation.
“Of course. And you can even take some pride in this one,” I tell him.
“It’s a job that will save people.”
His words are protesting and saying that he won’t do it, but I know Ho-un. I know how much he loves money.
I push some documents and a business card towards him. The documents contain all of the Spaniel’s personal details that I could scrape from the corners of my memory, and the business card is Chief Kim’s.
“I’m not completely certain about some of this information, but it should be mostly accurate. Find the man that it describes,” I say.
“What is this business card?” Ho-un asks.
“Show it to your mother when she asks where the money came from.”
Chief Kim belongs to the secretarial section of the Gogwang Group.
Ho-un compares my face to the one on the business card. “This isn’t you, though.”
“It’s alright, just use it. If she keeps asking, tell her you got a part-time job with Gogwang. Treat her to a nice meal,” I say.
I don’t have the heart to tell him that his mother will pass away when he becomes an adult. I can’t tell him to take good care of her.
“Seriously, who are you? Are you the son of a conglomerate leader or something?” Ho-un asks.
I silently get up from my seat. It’s almost midnight already. His mother would worry if I kept him any later.
“I’m just an unemployed guy with a lot of money,” I reply.
“That’s awesome,” Ho-un says.
“I have faith that you’ll find him soon.”
“I’ll do the work you paid me for. Don’t worry, Boss.”
Ho-un extends a hand towards me. His friendliness hasn’t changed.
I smile and take his hand.
Just you wait, Spaniel. I’ll catch you soon enough.